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Educate Together raises concerns with department amid parents' dismay over plans to move school

Labour TD Ged Nash told the Daíl this week that the planned move was a “ridiculous, wrong-headed decision [that] needs to be overturned”.

Image: Fergus O'Dowd/Facebook

THE NATIONAL OFFICE of Educate Together has said it is working with the Department of Education to find a suitable solution, after parents and school leaders expressed their dismay at plans to move the Drogheda Educate Together to a new location. 

The organisation said it has also called for a cross-departmental review of the wider planning processes around school buildings and sites to try to provide more certainty to schools, parents and children in the future. 

The Drogheda Educate Together school is currently located on Mill Road in east Meath, but the new plans ratified by the Louth and Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB) will see it moved to the grounds of St Oliver’s Community College in the town. 

Local TDs branded the move “ridiculous” and said the preference for all was to keep the school located in the east Meath area

The new site will have modular buildings put in place that will “encroach on a significant portion” of the playing pitches and recreational space at St Oliver’s. 

This will be the third move for the Educate Together second-level school in the last number of years.

In a letter sent on behalf of parents to Minister for Education Norma Foley, it described how they’d been left reeling by the “incomprehensible” decision.

“The impact and callous disregard for our children has been felt very deeply in our community this week,” they said.

In the Dáil on Thursday, Junior Education Minister Josepha Madigan was pressed by local TDs Ged Nash and Fergus O’Dowd on the matter. 

Nash characterised the planned move as a “ridiculous, wrong-headed decision [that] needs to be overturned”.

Minister Madigan said it has proven “challenging to identify suitable available sites” in the area to provide a permanent school building for the Drogheda Educate Together.

She said that demand for accommodation in the school this September meant that it could not remain at its current site. 

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“Obtaining a site for the permanent location of Drogheda ETSS is a priority for my Department,” she said. “I will be bringing the comments of the Deputies to the attention of the Minister, Deputy [Norma] Foley.”

On Friday, the Department of Education held a meeting with the national office of Educate Together.

In a statement, Educate Together said that “significant concerns” had been raised by the school’s board of management over the move and these concerns had been shared with the department. 

It said: “Educate Together expects to engage further with the Department and the school board of management in the coming weeks in order to ensure a suitable interim accommodation solution for the Drogheda ETSS school community for August 2021 and, importantly, to ensure a suitable permanent building is provided as soon as possible.

“The organisation is committed to working with the Department of Education and other stakeholders to ensure that suitable temporary and permanent accommodation is provided for schools in a timely fashion.

“However, considerable improvements are required in our planning systems so that school communities have certainty in relation to their accommodation much sooner, and so that they do not have to move multiple times. In this regard, Educate Together has called for a cross-departmental review of the wider planning processes around school buildings and school sites.”

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Sean Murray

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